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Lifeguards protest for permanent positions, beach safety

Lifeguard, lifeguards, protest, demonstration
Around 150 professional lifeguards from all over Cyprus protested outside the interior ministry (Christos Theodorides)

Around 150 professional lifeguards from all over Cyprus protested outside the interior ministry on Thursday morning, demanding an increase in permanent positions, the implementation of the national plan ‘Salamis’, and the establishment of a central beach service.

The protesters mentioned that there is no proper equipment (life belts, first aid kits, defibrillators) and that lifeguard towers need to be improved alongside the regular servicing of equipment.

They also reported being understaffed and said that for many lifeguards, especially young ones, there is uncertainty about whether they will be offered four-, six-, or eight-month contracts.

At the same time, they asked for permanent positions, with lifeguards stating, “that in Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca there are only three to four permanent lifeguard positions,” stressing that beaches must be stuffed year-round, not just in the summer.

The interior ministry’s EU policy chief Patrina Taramidou spoke with the protesting lifeguards and pledged to call them in for a dialogue after conveying their requests to the minister of the interior and the ministry’s general director.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Taramidou referred to a statement issued the previous day by the ministry, which said that it is “in the process of examining and evaluating the entire lifeguard protection system, with the aim of finding the most appropriate solution for the overall management of lifeguard protection by a central body”.

The announcement also said that the ministry “considers that, at this stage and until a final decision is made on the central body, these needs should be met through the existing permanent posts and through the increase in the months of employment of seasonal lifeguards”.

Taramidou noted that the ministry is currently examining the best possible ways to establish a beach security service in the most appropriate way.

“We had said that issues of permanent positions should be examined within the framework of the beach safety agency and that at this stage the ‘Salamis’ plan will continue to be implemented by setting up a staffing scheme for beaches and increasing the number of months to 10 and 11.

Meanwhile, labour unions Sek and Peo stood by the protesting lifeguards.

Sek general secretary Giorgos Constantinou said that the ministry is “procrastinating” when it comes to implementing the existing decisions and stressing that Salamis is not moving forward despite being a cabinet decision.

This is a huge issue affecting the safety of both bathers and lifeguards on all beaches, he said, adding that “procrastination costs the state, but it also costs human lives”.

He also said that while there are penalties for public swimming pools without lifeguards, the state itself does not implement proper staffing on public beaches.

Correct staffing is, after all, one of the lifeguards’ main requests, and the solution to the operational issues that exist when it comes to equipment and observation towers on organised beaches, Constantinou pointed out.

He agreed that these problems can be solved by the establishment of a single beach security service, as envisioned in the Salamis plan.

Peo general secretary Michalis Archontides agreed, saying that open beaches with no lifeguards are a security issue and a risk to bathers’ lives.

“This is not us saying it, but Salamis, which determines where the lifeguard tower should be, how many lifeguards should man the tower, and determines rescue time based on distance from the water, which could save lots of lives,” he said.

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